Interview held by Mario Cata
Q: Can you tell me how the idea of copa rebelde was born? And why?
Copa Rebelde was born inside Comite Popular da Copa de SP (World Cup Popular Group of São Paulo, an articulation of people of different social movements or independents that raises questions about the World Cup in Brazil). We are protesting against the World Cup, but we aren’t against football, so we had this idea to protest playing football and making a different kind of Cup to show that this is possible; another football (a popular one) is possible. The idea came from a guy that went, years ago, in the Mondiali Antirazzisti in Italy and the idea started to grow inspired by this. Also, some of the people in the organization had already participated in alternative torunaments around the world, in Italy, England, Argentina, and a lot of inspirations came from this.
Q: Who are the main organizers?
The organization and initiative is from Comite Popular da Copa de SP (World Cup Popular Group of São Paulo, an articulation of people of different social movements or independents that raises questions about the World Cup in Brazil). But inside Comite, some were more responsible than other. During this process, we invited the teams to help organizing and some, actually, did. But our idea to the next edition of Copa Rebelde is that the teams get even more involved. Also, a very important participation was from the community that lives around the place of Copa Rebelde.
Q: A part from the sport, what were the main social and political contents of the fifteenth of december?
The political content was in every different aspect of Copa Rebelde. As I said in the first question, we were playing a political football, a rebel football. The matches (except in the final and semi finals) didn’t have referees, we played with girls, boys, kids of different ages. Most of the teams were social movements or groups of activists. In our Cup, there were independent and street salesman (and woman) that aren’t allowed in the World Cup. We didn’t have trademarks or the support of big companies like FIFA, our support came from social movements and the community that lives around that area. In our Cup, the people who are being displaced from their homes (like the ones that lives in Favela da Paz, they had a team) are playing football and participating not being excluded. In our Cup, there were no high prices tickets to get in, there were no ticket at all, it was open to everyone. In our Cup, there were music from the streets and people just kept playing songs all day long. In our Cup, a lot of people met.
Another important issue was the place we selected to make Copa Rebelde. It was held in a very big block (you can look at the picture) in the middle of the center of SP. Just to explain to you: SP is a very big and expansive city; usually, poor people lives is far away neighborhoods, but the “old center” of SP also became a popular place. The center used to be, in the past, a place of high and middle class people but that began to change some decades ago. The center is inhabited, during the week and in the work hours, by thousands of people, but the ones who live there are, usually, poor and they, usually, lives in occupations or ‘cortiços’ (old building with lots of people living there, that pay a sort of a rent, but very cheap rent. Usually, this places aren’t very good to live, they are old). The part of the center that Copa Rebelde was held is called “Luz” (is surrounding a very big train and subway station of SP). There are a lot of crack users in this region either, in fact, some streets are called “cracolândia” (place of crack). And the place where we held Copa Rebelde was in the middle of “cracolândia”.
In recent years, I think something like ten years from now, different governments started to make changes in center, and specially in the region of Luz, trying to “gentrify” it. Lots of people were kick out, lots of old buildings were crushed and they started a plan to build cultural public buildings, but for the high class. It’s a process of changing the center of the town, trying to make it more suitable for the market, including the real state sector (that has a lot of lobby), which started to profit a lot in the region (prices started to go up). The government says they are “revitalizing” the center.
The place where Copa Rebelde was held was a bus station in the past; it was demolished and then, some people occupied it to live, they kicked out this people, it became a popular shopping mall, and then they demolished this to build a cultural place with theatre and dancing rooms to the state company of dance. It’s a billionaire project, which is being disputed among the most important and famous architecture offices around the world, that wont serve the population around. On the contrary, it’s an attempt to turn “cracolândia” and this poor place in a “cultural polo” for the elite and tourists. In the front of this area, there is a very old and beautiful building, called Estaçao Julio Prestes, in which the orchestra of SP plays, attracting loads of rich and important people (you can see this building in the pictures).
The construction hasn’t started yet and the place is abandoned by the state government. People that lives around started to play football in there, cause we don’t have much (or any) public spaces to use in SP, specially in the center. So, we had the idea of making there because we oppose that process.
In 14th, Saturday, we went there to clean the place (it was a big mess with a lot of shit – real shit -, clothes, different types of trashs) to make it a little bit more “confortable”. It had a very bad smell even though people (and kids) that live around used to play over there with no problems or worries about the trash. One of the reason the place is like this is that people who live around doesn’t have authorized homes, so the municipal trash collector doesn’t collect from them. Another reason is that in one side of the area it is formed a small “favela” of families that don’t have where to live and we believe they use the area as a big open bathroom and maybe as a garbage. We cleaned it up, as we could, we get 50 big sacks of trash.
On Sunday, lots of people of the area came. It was a really beautiful day, a very nice atmosphere. A friend of mine wrote something really nice about it, I’m copying below (he is a fotographer):
“From a crack in the concrete, Copa Rebelde emerged. Surrounded by buildings, an oasis of football turned an abandoned place in the center, neighbor to the Luz station, the square meter more happy in SP.
With his own hands, strong people revitalized downtown. In place of the rubble, garbage and helplessness, the ball rolled. Imagine if there was grass, shade trees and fresh air? Imagine if instead of new buildings were constructed in this enormous ground in front of the Sala São Paulo a beautiful (and necessary) park? Imagine?
Imagine if the Copa Rebelde is no longer ‘rebel’ to became a part of the calendar of a city that includes spaces where you can play football? Is this asking a lot to the country of the World Cup?
What I saw and photographed made me wonder”. (Rodrigo Erib – http://coparebelde.tumblr.com/)
Q: Do you have plans or new projects for the future? There will be a second edition of the copa rebelde?
Comite Popular da Copa has a lot of plans for next year, the year of the World Cup. Our calendar is not yet defined, but there is a lot to come.
Regarding Copa Rebelde, we are planning to make another one next year, in the first semester. Lots of people asked us about this on Sunday and were asking for more Copa Rebelde. Our idea is to repeat this, hopefully with the participation of even more people, to construct this together.
Q: Will it be in Sao Paolo again?
I guess so. There were only football teams from SP this time. I don’t know if we have the money or logistic to bring other teams from other places the next time. We haven’t though about that. Maybe other cities can make their own “copa rebelde”.
Q: How many teams have participated? Where were they from?
32 teams participated, including one of Comite Popular da Copa. There were social movements teams with different characteristics, some ask for homes (the homeless), one for indigenous rights, another one for palestinian rights, another one the legalization of drugs, another one prohibiting the use of ‘nonlethal’ weapons in demonstrations… You can see in the website the names and search a lit bit about them.
The “home team” won – Amigos da Barão, the guys that are used to play every weekend in the area, that live around, they won.